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Simplified or Traditional

March 2, 2012 1 Comment »

I am an Account Manager at a worldwide translations agency. Our company can translate into over 250 languages; many of these languages have certain dialects. If someone asks me for a Spanish translation, my first response is: “Which dialect will you need?” 90% of the time the client will automatically respond with “Mexican”, Latin American”, “or “European”. The same goes with French. “European or Canadian”? “Oh, well these documents will be presented in Quebec, so I assume Canadian.” These languages are easy because most people are familiar with the different dialects. However, with Chinese, it is a different story.

Most perspective clients do not realize that Chinese has many different dialects as well, the two main ones being Simplified or Traditional. When I ask a client which dialect of Chinese they would like, my responses are usually: “You mean there is more than one?”, “What is the difference”, or “I will have to make some phone calls to find out”.

Just so you can have a better understanding of the two dialects, it will be my pleasure to briefly explain the differences.

Traditional Chinese is exactly that, Traditional. It is the older style of Chinese characters that was the only form of Chinese until the year 1946 when Simplified was introduced. Traditional Chinese is spoken in Taiwan, Honk Kong, Macau, and with most oversees Chinese communities (i.e. USA, Australia, and Canada).

Simplified Chinese was introduced in mainland China in the early 1950’s to increase literacy amongst the common people. Simplified Chinese uses fewer strokes and more “simplified” characters. It has been described as a much easier form of Chinese with many saying “you do not have to be an artist to write it”. Simplified Chinese is currently officially spoken in only mainland China, but its popularity is quickly spreading (especially in international communities) as many people find it much easier than Traditional.

In closing, the next time you have a project that you need translated into Chinese; you should do a little research. Ask who will be reading these documents or where are they located. Not only will you get the answer to your question, you will also further educate yourself on one of the world’s most fascinating written languages.

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